OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – Olongapo City Mayor Rolen C. Paulino, Vice Mayor Aquilino Cortez, Jr., 8 city councilors, a former councilor and 5 department heads subject to six months suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman signified their intent to refuse the service of suspension of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) until the Court of Appeals decides on their application for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).
Speaking before government workers and officials during the flag ceremony on Monday, August 6, Paulino said the Ombudsman’s decision to suspend them for 6 months over misconduct was unfair.
“While we respect the rule of law, we will not step down until our appeal has been decided by the CA,” said the two-term mayor.
Paulino and Cortez are joined by the following:
- Councilor Noel Atienza
- Councilor Linus Bacay
- Councilor Benjamin Cajudo II
- Councilor Edna Elane
- Councilor Eduardo Guerrero
- Councilor Alreuela Bundang-Ortiz
- former councilor Ellen Dabu,
- ABC president Randy Sionzon
- IP representative Egmedio Gonzales Jr.
- City administrator Mamerto Malabute
- City planning chief TK Balde
- City accountant Cristiflor Buduhan,
- City legal head Ana Florentino Sison
- City budget chief Joy Fernandez Cahilig
They were earlier ordered suspended for 6 months by the Office of the Ombudsman for Simple Misconduct in relation to the city government’s lease of land to SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (SMPHI). There were alleged irregularities in the 25-year lease of government property to SMPHI.
Paulino claimed the heavy punishment over a minor procedural lapse was unjust.
“Such offense normally merits a penalty of a mere reprimand to one month suspension at the most, the mayor said. “Why impose 6 months suspension on us?” he asked.
Paulino clarified all the original charges filed against them have been dismissed by the Ombudsman.
He appealed to the authorities to respect their decision as they want to wait for the CA’s decision on their appeal.
“We believe the decision to suspend us for 6 months was unfair but if the CA says otherwise, then we will follow, but not until the court rules on the TRO,” Paulino said.
Supporters of Mayor Paulino have started arriving and have massed infront of the city hall since morning after rumors floated around saying the DILG will serve the notice of suspension on Monday.
Some supporters even placed 3 coffins infront of the city hall, which Paulino followers say is a symbol that democracy in Olongapo is dead.
Cortez appealed to the crowd who for support as he reminded them of the year 1998 when he was with Sen. Dick Gordon, then Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chair, who was being ousted by an Administrative Order No. 1 of President Estrada.
The vice mayor, however, said the difference with that period is that now he is on the opposite side as he and other city officials attempt to fight what they consider an unfair order by the Ombudsman.
Both Cortez and Paulino were formerly two of Gordon’s assistants at the SBMA. – Rappler.com
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